AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's no surprise since they left last week's game in Denver in the first half and never returned, but running back Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry will not practice for the Kansas City Chiefs Wednesday.

Charles has a high ankle sprain, Berry a sprained ankle.

But De'Anthony Thomas is scheduled to practice and play in Sunday's game against the Dolphins in Miami. Thomas missed the season's first two games because of a strained hamstring.

"I've been waiting for this moment my whole life to play in my first NFL game," said Thomas, a rookie running back and receiver who was drafted in the fourth round. "It's my time to make plays and contribute to this offense."

The likely loss of Charles would be partially offset by the return of Thomas, who is world-class fast. The Chiefs lined him up in a variety of places during training camp in search of the proper matchups.

Thomas is also the Chiefs' top punt returner. He brought one back 80 yards for a touchdown in a preseason game against Cincinnati.

"Another weapon, another playmaker," quarterback Alex Smith said. "The more of those you present to a defense, the harder you are to defend."

The Film Don't Lie: Chiefs

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
A weekly look at what the Kansas City Chiefs must fix:

The Chiefs are one of four teams yet to force their opponent to commit a turnover. That’s one reason the Chiefs are 0-2 going into Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in Miami. Their defensive system is based on pressuring the opponent into making mistakes, and the Chiefs have failed in that regard so far. The Chiefs’ pass rush has otherwise been productive. It has a sack on 8.5 percent of its opponents’ pass attempts, which ranks eighth in the league. In their 9-0 start last season, the Chiefs led the NFL with 23 takeaways and five defensive touchdowns.
DENVER -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Kansas City Chiefs' 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos:

Santos to stay: Coach Andy Reid said the Chiefs would stay with struggling rookie kicker Cairo Santos. He missed a 37-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter to end a 10-minute drive. Santos also missed an attempt in last week's game. The Chiefs released a steady veteran, Ryan Succop, to go with Santos, who wasn't drafted.

It was their turn: The Chiefs failed to get a point on two of their trips inside the Denver 5. But running back Knile Davis said after the Chiefs also scored twice in those situations, it was the Broncos' turn to win. "The defense wins sometimes, too," he said.

Missing Charles: Quarterback Alex Smith acknowledged the loss of running back Jamaal Charles hurt the Chiefs the most on those trips inside the Denver 5. "Everything is magnified down there," he said.

Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14

DENVER -- A few thoughts on the Kansas City Chiefs' 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field:

What it means: As opposed to last week's loss to Tennessee, the Chiefs have no reason to be disheartened by this defeat. The Chiefs lost three starters for the season last week because of injuries and played most of this one without running Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry. Each left the game in the first half with an ankle injury and didn't return. The Chiefs still showed signs of life that were well-hidden last week, particularly on offense. At 0-2, the Chiefs have to find a way to regroup in time for next week's game at Miami.

Stock watch: Rookie kicker Cairo Santos had his second straight shaky game. He missed a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter that would have pulled the Chiefs to within a touchdown. Cornerback Marcus Cooper, a frequent victim of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning last season, was burned on a 48-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders on the game's first play from scrimmage to set up the Broncos' first touchdown. Knile Davis did a nice job of filling in for Charles in the running game but he's still a liability when he's in the game on passing plays.

More injuries: The Chiefs' lineup was patched together at many spots. Berry was replaced by Ron Parker, who spent most of training camp as a cornerback. Davis is far from the versatile back the Chiefs need in their offensive system. They already had to dig deep to fill their lineup on the offensive line and at inside linebacker. Depth was a concern heading into training camp and it's evident those worries were valid.

Game ball: Quarterback Alex Smith was under heavy pressure all day but played well enough to keep the Chiefs alive. His running ability was also a key in the first half when he had some runs that kept drives alive.

What's next: The Chiefs head to Miami for a game against the 1-1 Dolphins at 4:25 p.m. ET next week.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The bad injury news continues to pile up for the Kansas City Chiefs. Coach Andy Reid said offensive lineman Jeff Allen would need elbow surgery and is not likely to return this season.

Also, rookie running back De’Anthony Thomas has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Broncos in Denver because of an injured hamstring.

 Allen started at right tackle in the season-opener against Tennessee. He started training camp as the left guard but switched positions when right tackle Donald Stephenson was suspended for the season’s first four games because of a violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Allen’s spot at right tackle on Sunday will be filled by veteran Ryan Harris, who signed with the Chiefs on the eve of training camp. The starter in Allen’s original spot at left guard, Mike McGlynn, joined the Chiefs in late August after being released by Washington.

If Allen misses the remainder of the regular season, he would be the third starter lost for the year from the Tennessee game. Linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito each ruptured an Achilles tendon.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Numbers aren’t the best way to measure the impact Derrick Johnson had on the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense or the problem they will have in replacing him for the rest of the season. Johnson, an inside linebacker, ruptured his Achilles tendon in last week’s opener and after having surgery is out for the season.

 Johnson’s gift is his down to down presence. He was as consistent a player as any coach could ask for against both the run and the pass. Johnson was one of the NFL’s best players at his position, and if he had caught more of the game-changing interceptions that he’s dropped -- Johnson’s hands are legendary bad -- more people would know about his skills.

But we’ll try to quantify just how much the Chiefs will miss Johnson. The Tennessee Titans rushed for 26 yards on 10 carries for a 2.6-yard per carry average in last week’s game against the Chiefs before Johnson left the game late in the second quarter.

After his departure, the Titans averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 136 yards on 28 carries.

That’s not a scientific measurement, for sure. It’s a tiny sample size that is also influenced by other factors. Shortly after Johnson left the game, the Chiefs lost another one of their best run defenders, Mike DeVito, also for the season with an identical injury.

But it helps illustrate what the Chiefs are facing here. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is well aware of what Johnson meant to the Chiefs.

“A lot of times when you have a guy like [Johnson] who has exceptional speed for his position, it isn’t just the plays you make but the plays you prevent,’’ Sutton said. “Sometimes those are runs that went for five [yards] or passes that went for 10, but he’s there and that stops a play from going. That’s the one advantage of speed in relationship to your position.

“So you miss that. You miss his experience.’’

The Chiefs will replace him with James-Michael Johnson, who was claimed off waivers last season from the Cleveland Browns.

Derrick Johnson has been extremely durable. He’s missed just seven games since joining the Chiefs in 2005 and one of those was the final regular-season contest last year when the Chiefs rested Johnson and a few other starters.

The last time Johnson missed a game because of injury was 2009.

So playing without Johnson will be an event for the Chiefs on Sunday in Denver against the Broncos. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has already noticed.

“I played against him for a long time going back to my days in Indianapolis,’’ Manning said. “Special player, and I just hate to see it. I was watching the TV game, and I just hate to see that kind of injury. But obviously anytime you lose a quality player, everybody else has to step up, and I know the Chiefs will do that. But I hate to see what happened to Derrick -- he’s such a great football player -- in the first game of the season.”

Broncos vs. Chiefs preview

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12

The Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs don't have to wait long to open up AFC West play as they jump into a Week 2 matchup. The Broncos had one glorious half before they had to hang on in their season-opening 31-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Chiefs struggled in a 26-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium and will be without two regulars in defensive tackle Mike DeVito and linebacker Derrick Johnson, who both suffered season-ending Achilles injuries in the loss. Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold discuss Sunday's game.

Legwold: Adam, every training camp for every team ends with such high hopes and plenty of optimism. What is the Chiefs' mindset after such a tough opening week?

Teicher: There's not a lot for the Chiefs to be optimistic about right now. Since their 9-0 start last season they've gone 2-7, including their collapse in the playoffs against Indianapolis. Their offensive line is in tatters, quarterback Alex Smith is throwing interceptions in uncharacteristically high numbers, running back Jamaal Charles didn’t get the ball much against Tennessee, some of their best young players aren't contributing much, they lost two of their best defensive players for the season with injuries last week and their defense got pushed around by Jake Locker and the Titans. Then there's the upcoming schedule, which has the Chiefs playing road games against the Broncos, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers and a home game against the New England Patriots in the next five weeks. Otherwise, all is good with the Chiefs.

What about the Broncos in this regard? The losing team in the Super Bowl often has a season-long hangover afterward, but the Broncos don't seem to be affected.

Legwold: When the Broncos signed Peyton Manning, executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said he wanted not only Manning's play on the field, but also a player "who raises all boats." Manning and the other Broncos veterans attacked the offseason and a fairly young team overall has taken its cues from those hard-driving older players. When they brought in veteran players such as DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward, those guys saw this as a chance at a Super Bowl, so they have been no nonsense as they've gone about their business. That has kept things on the tracks. The suspensions handed down to wide receiver Wes Welker and kicker Matt Prater ended what had been a quiet summer for the team. But, overall, it's a locked-in group that needs to avoid injuries to key players to be in the title mix again.

In terms of offseason work, the Chiefs locked up Smith with a contract extension. What was the organization's plan and is there even more pressure on Smith now to lift them into the postseason?

Teicher: The plan with Smith all along, from the time they acquired him in the trade with the 49ers, was to lock him up for the long term. At no time did they consider him a stopgap or the bridge to the next quarterback. Those plans could have changed had they not been satisfied with Smith's play last season. But Smith last season was the guy the Chiefs thought they were getting. This new contract certainly increases the pressure on Smith to deliver. The Chiefs have committed to him in a big way, and he will be consuming a significant portion of the team's salary cap. Smith is by no means solely responsible for last Sunday's loss, but he didn't play well. He threw three interceptions, and two were bad decisions on his part, the kind of choices he doesn't usually make. The Chiefs are paying him a lot of money to make better decisions.

You mentioned Denver's offseason signings of defensive players in Ware, Talib and Ward. How has their presence changed the complexion of the Broncos' defense?

Legwold: Elway spends a lot of time talking about "the mindset" and "the mentality to win a world championship," and when he was waving the team's checkbook around in free agency, he went looking for players with the mindset to remake the defense. There are just six players on the roster who started on defense in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos players voted Ware a captain and his straightforward, no-nonsense approach has made him an almost instant team leader. He also had 1.5 sacks in the opener, and while some in the league had labeled Ware a declining player in his 10th season, the Broncos think they can manage his snaps to get the most out of him. Ward and Talib bring an edge the Broncos wanted, and both were all over the field this past Sunday night. Toss in the first-round pick, cornerback Bradley Roby, and the Broncos will play with more aggressiveness and a bigger variety in personnel groupings than they did in last season's two games against the Chiefs.

Defensively, how will the Chiefs adjust to the injuries to DeVito and Johnson? Will it alter their approach dramatically, especially given what Johnson means to the group?

Teicher: I don't think the Chiefs will change their approach dramatically, but there's no question they will feel the loss of both players. Johnson will be replaced by James-Michael Johnson. The Chiefs went out in free agency and signed veteran Joe Mays, a former Broncos player, to fill one of their inside linebacker spots, an indication they didn't think Johnson was ready to be a full-time player. He got a long look in passing situations during the preseason, and the Chiefs are more comfortable with him playing in coverage than against the run. That said, he's no Derrick Johnson, who is superb against the run and versatile against the pass. DeVito was one of the Chiefs' better run defenders and was improving as a pass-rusher. His main replacement will be Jaye Howard, who had a promising preseason. Former Oakland Raider Vance Walker, and even the newly signed Kevin Vickerson, could get some playing time as well.

The Chiefs tried to sign wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in free agency before he joined the Broncos. He looked like a good fit for the Broncos in the opener against Indianapolis. What are their expectations for him? And give us a little scouting report on Vickerson, a former Bronco.

Legwold: In terms of players on offense who were available in free agency, Sanders was the team's top target. The Broncos' offensive coaches, particularly offensive coordinator Adam Gase, like Sanders' versatility in that he can line up in the outside spots and in the slot to go with the fact he has quality short-area quickness to beat press coverage off the snap and top-end speed to run away from defenders in the open. Manning has worked extensively with him -- the two stayed after practice, often with rookie receiver Cody Latimer -- every day of offseason workouts, as well as in training camp. The work helped, and Sanders projects to a big season in this offense. Vickerson was likely the 54th player on this roster when the Broncos cut to 53. The Broncos liked his work on run downs and the physicality and ability take on double-teams. They did have some long-term concern about his hip -- Vickerson was kept on a limited schedule throughout much of training camp -- but they needed a little cap space and kept only eight defensive linemen, so Vickerson got caught in the squeeze.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After losing their season-opener in a rather convincing manner, the Kansas City Chiefs are in a position where they could use a lift from the return of their most accomplished wide receiver.

 Dwayne Bowe isn’t waiting until Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos to try to provide that lift. He indicated that process started earlier in the week, shortly after his return for a one-game NFL suspension for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

“Just be myself,’’ Bowe said when asked what he wanted to accomplish this week. “Come in jovial, come in picking guys up and letting them know it’s one game at a time, one play at a time. Just play with energy, just play with passion, just play your game. That’s what I’m preaching to everyone in the locker room, and that’s what we’ve got to bring if we’re going to beat the Denver Broncos.’’

That’s all good, but what the Chiefs really need from Bowe is to play on Sunday as he did earlier in his career. One reason the Chiefs floundered on offense against the Tennessee Titans is that their wide receivers caught just eight passes, which is tied for last in the league with the New York Giants.

“Being a playmaker, you want to make plays whenever the ball is being thrown,’’ said Bowe, who watched the game on TV at his home in Kansas City. “It was hard watching. I’ve seen myself making some of the plays that [weren’t] made. If they happen again, I’ll be out there to make those plays.

“I wish I could have been out there to help my team, but things happen and you move forward and you learn from them and you try to let it not happen again.’’

History says Charles will have big game

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Since becoming the Kansas City Chiefs’ featured back midway through the 2009 season, Jamaal Charles has had six games with fewer than 10 carries. One, of course, happened last week against Tennessee when he finished with seven carries for 19 yards.

 If history is any guide, Charles has a good chance of having a big game this Sunday against the Broncos in Denver.

In 2012, Charles had just six carries in a September loss to the Buffalo Bills. Next came a 233-yard, one-touchdown game against the New Orleans Saints. But later that season, he followed a five-carry game against Oakland with just 39 yards against San Diego.

However, in December of that same year, Charles rushed for 226 yards and a touchdown against Indianapolis a week after carrying nine times against the Raiders.

Then, last season, Charles followed an eight-carry game against the Raiders with 106 yards and a touchdown against the Colts.

Charles had just two carries in a 2011 game against the Lions in Detroit, but he tore his ACL on the second of those carries, and his season was finished.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There’s no shame in losing to Peyton Manning. He’s won almost 70 percent of his regular-season games since arriving in the NFL, so he’s hurt a lot of opponents for a lot of years.

But the Kansas City Chiefs' history against Manning is particularly sad. Manning is 11-1 against Kansas City all-time, counting a pair of playoffs games, including one in which the Chiefs never forced Manning’s Indianapolis Colts to punt.

Manning has undefeated records against the Cincinnati Bengals (8-0) and Cleveland Browns (6-0). Otherwise, his winning percentage is better against the Chiefs than any team he’s started against more than three times.

Funny thing is, the Chiefs have actually defended him well a couple times. He was something less than average against the Chiefs in regular season games in 2007 and 2010, but the Colts still managed to win those games.

Statistically, his best game against the Chiefs was the one in which he lost. He threw for 472 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-35 Chiefs victory in 2004.

The Chiefs have had no luck against Manning in the four games since he joined the Denver Broncos. The closest margin in those games was 17-9 in 2012 at Arrowhead Stadium, and Manning still managed to throw a pair of touchdown passes.

The Chiefs had him down 21-7 at Arrowhead last season before Manning and the Broncos got hot. The Chiefs couldn’t keep up.

There’s no reason to believe things will be different in the rivalry when the Chiefs and Broncos meet on Sunday in Denver. To beat Manning, the Chiefs will either have to slow him down or outscore him.

Judging from last week’s game against Tennessee, the Chiefs don’t look capable of doing either.

Ford can still be an asset to Chiefs

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Ask and you shall receive. Shortly after I suggested the Kansas City Chiefs need to get more from their first-round draft pick, coach Andy Reid said linebacker Dee Ford would get more work.

“Dee Ford probably didn’t have enough snaps,’’ Reid said. “We’ve got to work him into the rotation and do a better job there, which we’ll do.’’

Ford played just three snaps on defense in Sunday’s 26-10 season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans. Ford also was in for two plays on special teams.

Pass rush is hardly the Chiefs’ biggest problem right now. They sacked Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker four times on Sunday.

But the Chiefs are desperate for playmakers. They need someone who can make a game-turning play before their season spirals out of control.

Ford is capable of making that happen. The Chiefs don’t have to take Tamba Hali or Justin Houston out of their lineup to put Ford in.

Ford didn’t play more against the Titans because he looked lost in the preseason against the run and in pass coverage.

That’s OK. He’s converting to outside linebacker from defensive end in college. The Chiefs expected a transition period for him, particularly in coverage.

“He’s getting better in the run game,’’ Reid said. “Right now, his strength is the pass game, but he’s getting better. There are some things you can do rotationally there where he gets in and has an opportunity to play.’’

Te Chiefs were eager to use a 255-pounder who’s a good athlete on special teams. But Ford has been deficient in that area, too.

“That’s not necessarily his strongest point,’’ Reid said.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs have signed veteran defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson, according to Pro Football Talk. The addition fills the void left by the season-ending injury to defensive end Mike DeVito. DeVito ruptured his Achilles tendon in Sunday's loss to Tennessee and was to have surgery.

Jaye Howard and Vance Walker will share DeVito's spot in the base defense. Howard is an interesting prospect. He joined the Chiefs last season off waivers from Seattle but played little.

He played a lot in the preseason because a hand injury kept DeVito from playing and Howard handled it well.

"Howard is an explosive player," coach Andy Reid said. "His big thing was just making sure that was something that took place on every play. Consistency was the factor, he's shown us that he can do that throughout his time here. He had a good preseason with us and now will have an opportunity to get in there and play a little bit more."

Walker was signed from Oakland during the offseason as a free agent but played just one snap against the Titans.

Either way, the Chiefs will miss DeVito. He was an underrated player, strong against the run and improving as a pass-rusher.

Vickerson, 31, has played nine seasons for Miami, Tennessee and Denver with 43 starts.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The ominous signs for the Kansas City Chiefs and their 2014 season were everywhere in their season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans.

None were more ominous than seeing two defensive starters, linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito, carted off the field within a few minutes of one another. The injuries were the same, a rupture of the Achilles tendon, and both are likely done for the season.

“It’s just a freaky day,’’ safety Eric Berry said.

The loss of Johnson will be more difficult for the Chiefs to overcome. A three-time Pro Bowler, Johnson was in many ways the heart of the Kansas City defense. His replacement, James-Michael Johnson, joined the Chiefs last year off waivers from the Cleveland Browns.

“He’s been here for years, he’s been through the coaching changes, he’s been through all of the ups and downs,’’ Berry said of Derrick Johnson. “He stayed true to the game, he never backed down regardless of what our record was, regardless of what everything outside of football was going on. He always came and brought his 'A' game.

“I think he was a good image of what everybody should be like on this team.”

The Chiefs can choose between Vance Walker and Jaye Howard to replace DeVito, who was a sturdy run defender and had improved as a pass-rusher. Walker signed as a free agent this year from the Oakland Raiders. Howard, who played well in the preseason, joined the Chiefs last year from the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent.

“DeVito means just as much to this defense especially in the run game and just his presence period in the locker room every day,’’ Berry said. “When you’ve got guys like that that things happen to, everybody is going to have to up their game with a little bit more focus.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When boiled to its essence, the Kansas City Chiefs recently gave a contract extension to quarterback Alex Smith because of the things he has done exceedingly well.

Those are winning games (fourth among quarterbacks in winning percentage over the previous three years) and protecting the ball (seven interceptions last season and lowest interception rate among starting quarterbacks).

Smith did a rotten job of protecting the ball Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium. He threw three interceptions, which was a major reason the Chiefs lost 26-10.

“Those are the little things, and they add up," Smith said, referring more to the mistakes that led to the interceptions rather than the turnovers themselves. “All of a sudden you look up and the scoreboard looks like that."

The Chiefs played without their top wide receiver, the suspended Dwayne Bowe, and their fastest player, injured slot receiver De'Anthony Thomas. So things were going to be difficult for the Chiefs in the passing game.

In that respect, Smith can hardly be faulted for trying to make some plays (two of the interceptions were on deep balls) or attempting to get the ball to the Chiefs’ most accomplished receiver in uniform, Donnie Avery.

“He was trying to make something happen, and things didn’t work," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Those are calls down there, opportunities for shots. They had him covered."

Reid, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson and quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy have been after Smith to be more aggressive in going downfield with the ball. He has a well-deserved reputation for being too quick to go to his checkdown receiver, but that’s one reason he rarely throws an interception.

That’s not a bad strategy on the part of Reid and the offensive coaches, but Smith has to be smarter in his decision-making. The Chiefs trailed only 7-3 and were backed up at their own 2 in the final minute of the first half when Smith threw his first interception.

The Titans converted the resulting field position into a field goal, which ignited their rout.

“The one that jumps out at me as far as the decision is the one before the half," Smith said. “Maybe just taking your medicine there and checking the ball down to Jamaal [Charles].

“We got what we were looking for. We had one-on-one [coverage on Avery]."

Smith shouldn’t make that throw in that situation unless he’s sure Avery is open or the ball is going to be incomplete. That can be a difficult thing to discern, but the Chiefs are paying Smith enough money to get it right. The circumstances demanded a conservative decision.

The next interception happened when he thought Avery had cornerback Jason McCourty beat. He was right, but the ball was underthrown.

The last interception, in the game’s final moments and long after the Titans had secured the victory, came off a tipped ball.

Smith has to walk the slimmest of lines between making a play and protecting the ball. His line is thinner than that of most NFL quarterbacks because the Chiefs haven’t surrounded him with much in the way of playmakers besides Charles.

But he’s paid, and paid a lot, to get it right. The early returns on the Chiefs’ investment in Smith don’t look good.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Kansas City Chiefs' 26-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans:
  • Coach Andy Reid confirmed that linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito each ruptured an Achilles tendon and are likely out for the season. Both left the stadium on crutches.
  • Rookie kicker Cairo Santos had a difficult NFL debut, making one of two field goal attempts and bouncing both kicks off an upright. But Santos didn’t hide from the heat afterward. He patiently answered questions and resolved to do better the next time.
  • Running back Jamaal Charles got the ball only 11 times, but he said a bigger problem was the missed field goal. It happened in the second quarter with the Chiefs ahead 3-0. Charles said the failed kick killed whatever momentum the Chiefs had.